The unemployment rate in Tuolumne County rose slightly in December, putting an end to a nearly two-year decline in jobless claims.

Unemployment stood at 12.8 percent in December, up from 12.4 percent in November, according to Employment Development Department figures released Friday.

Prior to last month's rise, the unemployment rate fell consistently since February 2010, when unemployment was well above 14 percent, according to EDD analyst Pedro Vargas. He said the slight increase in joblessness shouldn't be cause for alarm because the overall number of people out of work is down compared to December 2010, when unemployment stood at 13.9 percent.

"It's not that big of a change and it's pretty typical to see a change like this," he said.

Most of the job losses were in government, with a total of 120 jobs

lost in December. Another 50 jobs were lost in construction, 30 in

manufacturing and 30 in leisure and hospitality. Vargas said the lack

of snow in November and December likely forced some ski resorts to cut

seasonal jobs at a time when they would normally be hiring.

The available labor force also fell in December to a total of 25,030 in Tuolumne County.

The number of people looking for work in Tuolumne County had been

falling consistently for much of the year, but in December rose

slightly to a total of 3,210 compared to 3,120 in November. The

available labor force continued to fall last month and was at 25,030

compared to the same period last year when it was at 25,280.

"There are less folks in the labor force and that makes a big difference for the unemployment rate," Vargas said.

In Calaveras County, the unemployment rate remained flat in

December at 14.1 percent, according to EDD statistics. The number of

jobless claims have fallen significantly when compared to December

2010, when unemployment stood at 16 percent.

Employment in local government was up in Calaveras County, likely

driven by increased hiring in educational services, Vargas said.

The total labor force rose slightly in December, with 19,210

available workers compared to 19,090 in November. The number of people

still looking for work was up last month as well, with 2,710 compared

to 2,690, according to EDD. Overall, however, the labor force and

number of unemployed have fallen compared to the same period in 2010

when the statistics were 19,810 and 3,170 respectively.

The outlook was better in the state as a whole where unemployment

fell to 11.1 percent in December, from 11.3 percent, according to EDD.

Employers also added 10,700 workers in December.

California added 240,300 jobs in 2011 across several sectors of the

economy. Vargas said that much of the growth has yet to trickle up to

the Mother Lode yet and job creation has been more robust in Los

Angeles and the Bay Area.

"To me that's positive. If it's happening in those areas,

eventually the rural areas pick up in later months," he said. "The good

news is that manufacturing and construction are moving up to the

positive side."

Contact Ryan Campbell at or 588-4526.